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Jerusalem's Flamboyant 'Bridge of Strings'
Critics deride incongruent extravaganza; City Hall says upgrades modern capital
Yehonathan Tommer (tommery06)     Print Article 
Published 2008-06-27 11:36 (KST)   
"Bridge of Strings," Jerusalem inauguration
©2008 Courtesy of Yediot Aharanot
A flamboyant bridge dominating the historic Jerusalem skyline was inaugurated this week at the entrance to the Israeli capital.

The bridge was designed by the world renowned Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava and cost $73 million.

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It curves across the city's main western entrance and is suspended from 66 white cables attached to a spire towering 118 meters over the surrounding rooftops and is visible from miles away.

The bridge will eventually carry a new light rail line and display a protected pedestrian walkway to offer a panoramic view of the city to commuters and visitors.

The gala inauguration replete with fireworks, dancers and speeches by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz cost more than $2 million.

The ceremony was very nearly disrupted by the city's ultra-orthodox who demanded of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupliansky (an ultra orthodox Jew himself) that young female dancers observe strict codes of modest dress ( long skirts and full head cover to hide their hair).

To the minds of Jerusalem residents the bridge, variously coined the "Chords Bridge" or "Bridge of Strings," likens a ship's sail, a harp, a spider's web or even a giagantic crooked nail. The names indicate their positive but unsure attitude to the newest addition to their city's skyline.

Some say it is aesthetic, others say it is incongruent with the skyline.

Calatrava, who was present at the inauguration said that the structure was "120 percent modern and conducts a dialogue with the rest of the city."

Calatrava has built more than 40 bridges worldwide including a bridge nearing completion over the Grand Canal in Venice. But the Jerusalem Bridge "is the most beautiful, I like it the best." he said.

Calatrava has also designed the "Turning Torso" Building in Malmo, Sweden and planned the transportation hub at Ground Zero in New York.

Some of the bridge's massive steel components were cast in Italy, shipped to Israel and transported to Jerusalem on flatbed trucks. The tallest crane in Israel was needed to raise the central spire.

Its construction costs were more than double the original estimates and the bridge's final extravagance and location remains a matter of deep public controversy.

Critics are scathing of the municipality's decision to site the bridge in a charm less and uninspiring part of the city characterized by grimy apartment blocks and nondescript hotels.

The modernistic monument, they say, is incongruent with the city's ancient historic landmarks like the Old City's Golden Dome of the Rock (Haram esh-Sharif mosque) and the Western Wall.

The budget, they charge, could have been better spent improving the city's continuing massive traffic snarls and congestion.

The light rail train, whose construction was delayed by powerful real estate interests and is years behind schedule, is set to operate by 2010 at the earliest.

Parrying the criticism City Hall officials say that planned high rises around the bridge will refurbish the entrance to Jerusalem and its main road leading to the city center. Jaffa Road with its remaining old buildings dating to Ottoman Turkish and British Mandate times is destined for urban redevelopment.

The bridge, they say, will upgrade Jerusalem as a modern Western capital and focus of world tourism.

©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Yehonathan Tommer

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